Why are space capabilities important?
Space is a fast-changing domain, on which we depend unconditionally. We need space in order to do things in a smart and efficient way. By using capabilities such as satellites in NATO operations and missions, we save time and resources without risking people's lives unnecessarily.
What do you do?
As a space scientist, I work on a wide range of activities connected to space. I support NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and Allied Command Operations (ACO) in the development of the implementation plan for space as an operational domain. My role is to find gaps and propose possible solutions. The goal is to identify the roles, responsibilities and personnel required to perform specific functions related to space, and that is why I am writing about dependencies on space capabilities across NATO. I am doing this in coordination with the Nations and their representatives. We try to keep them updated on our activities and establish a good working relationship to increase the number of space agreements in the future.
I participate in one or two major NATO exercises every year as a part of the exercise control team. NATO exercises provide important training opportunities for the Nations and their personnel. We prepare a scenario and determine a fictitious space event that requires an appropriate response from participants.
What space support is the NCI Agency providing today?
The NCI Agency is the only provider of Satellite Communication (SATCOM) services to the Alliance at the moment. Many of the Alliance's services and capabilities, which are used by NATO forces in operations and missions, depend on SATCOM. For example: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) and Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). The unmanned aerial vehicles of the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) also rely on SATCOM for secure communications, command and control and the transmission of data.
We offer technical expertise, as well as secure software systems for coordinating activities within the community. This software helped us facilitate the development of the NATO space policy and its implementation plan. We also use it to share information with the Nations.
How has NATO's use of space capabilities changed in recent years?
NATO owned and operated satellites until 2005. The maintenance was very expensive, so it was more efficient to switch to a service-level agreement with the Nations. This means that we are now dependent on their capabilities, which they share with us voluntarily. SATCOM provision is the only agreement we have with the Nations right now, so we need to keep in mind that most of the space support to NATO is currently not guaranteed. As commercial companies are becoming stronger and providing bigger capabilities, it is possible that we are going to procure more commercial capabilities in the future.
Why is the NCI Agency considering consolidating its space expertise under one hub?
We want to organize ourselves to coordinate all the national space efforts across the Alliance. We are exploring the possibilities to advance our current capabilities in order to achieve a guaranteed provision of services to NATO at all times. It is also a domain with a growing number of security threats. We need to be prepared to offer the best solutions to the Alliance. To do so, we need to keep in close contact with the Nations and establish a direct link with industry. It is essential to know what is at the cutting edge of space technology and, ultimately, what is most cost-efficient. In an effort to make the right investments, we have to be aware of all the opportunities that exist in this field.
Why is your work important for the Agency and for NATO in general?
I believe that I have a good overview and understanding of what is coming to space in the near future, and how the Agency can best support those impending requirements. Education is one of the most significant parts of my work. It is important to advertise space and explain to those in power why it is essential to have the right capabilities in place. Space is an interesting and very exciting subject, where work is never routine. I enjoy experiencing this rapidly evolving field and seeing how NATO and the Nations evolve with it.